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26 May 2018, 03:40 | Dale Webster
Global warming may have 'devastating' effects on rice: study
Scientists from China, Japan, the U.S. and Australia report in the journal Science Advances that they began their research, using what they call the technique of free air carbon dioxide enrichment, in 1998, to recreate what they expect to be the conditions under which farmers will grow crops a few decades from now.
An global research team analyzed rice samples and they discovered that exposing rice to the levels of carbon dioxide that are expected in the second half of this century results in the grain containing less amount of protein, iron, and zinc, as well as lower levels of vitamins B1, B2, B5, and B9.
However, not all types of rice responded to the experiential conditions in the same way, which means there is a chance that scientists could identify varieties of rice that maintain their nutritional value regardless of Carbon dioxide levels. Not all varieties of rice responded in the same way, so future research projects may examine the possibility of finding varieties of rice that can remain nutritious despite the change in the atmosphere.
"This technique allows us to test the effects of higher carbon dioxide concentrations on plants growing in the same conditions that farmers really will grow them some decades later in this century", said Kobayashi. For people who depend heavily on rice as a staple in their diets, such a nutritional loss would be devastating, says Kristie Ebi, a professor at the University of Washington and an author on the study. This was also true in Japan during the 1960s, but current Japanese receive only about 20 percent of their daily food energy from rice.
As global temperatures rise in response to ever greater levels of Carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases in the atmosphere, harvests of all the staple cereals could in any case decline - sometimes as a response to ever wilder extremes of heat, rain and windstorm - by between 20 and 40%.
"Rice is not just a major source of calories, but also proteins and vitamins for many people in developing countries and for poorer communities within developed countries", Kobayashi explained. Recently, a study concludes that the higher levels of the carbon dioxide lower the nutritive values of the rice grains.
They looked at 18 varieties of rice in total and analyzed half of them in China for levels of B vitamins like thiamine, riboflavin and folate (B1, B2, and B9). Folate or vitamin B9 levels were down 30%. "Reductions in the nutritional quality of rice could affect maternal and child health for millions of people". Researchers published the findings this week in the journal Science Advances. "People say more Carbon dioxide is plant food, and it is".
The consequences for wheat are tied to rising temperatures, but with rice, the immediate issue appears to be the growing concentrations of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. As carbon dioxide levels got higher, certain nutrients became less powerful. But so far, there has been little research on the impact of climate change on the nutritional qualities of each staple.
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